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The fourth Men in Black movie, subtitled International, is now playing in theaters this weekend, but the sci-fi franchise's ability to properly invade the box office seems to have been vaporized by a Series 7 De-Atomizer. The new installment, helmed by F. Gary Gray, took the top spot with a Pawny-sized domestic total of $28.5 million from 4,200 theaters.
That's less than half of what the last movie—directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones—made during its debut weekend in May of 2012. Foreign markets were able to pick up some of the extraterrestrial slack via $74 million from for a global debut of $102.2 million.
Penned by the Iron Man writing duo of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, Men in Black International (based on the Malibu comic by Lowell Cunningham) is a sequel/spinoff/soft reboot for the Sony-owned film series about a top-secret organization that monitors alien activity on Earth. Replacing Smith and Jones are Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth (hot off their onscreen pair-up in Thor: Ragnarok and, to a lesser extent, Avengers: Endgame) as Agents M and H, who embark on a globe-trotting mission to discover a mole within the ranks of the MiB.
Even with an A-list supporting cast of Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani (who really steals the show as a pint-sized CGI alien, the aforementioned "Pawny"), Les Twins, and Rebecca Ferguson, the movie has received incredibly tepid-to-negative reviews from critics. All of that led to an abysmal 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. As a result, it's very likely that we won't be seeing a sequel to this project, which was meant to launch a fresh new franchise with a younger generation of alien-fighting agents.
Another genre feature to hit theaters this weekend was Jim Jarmusch's zombie-comedy, the Focus Features-distributed The Dead Don't Die. Here's another example of a top-notch ensemble—Billy Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, and others—unable to secure box-office gold. The movie opened at No. 12, with $2.35 million from 613 North American theaters, and while that's not a huge figure, it's still the biggest weekend opening for Jarmusch's career.
“We’re thrilled to see Jim’s biggest opening and his top grossing weekend ever with this film,” said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features’ president of distribution in a statement. "His unique take on the zombie genre delivers his signature brand of humor, style and substance for moviegoers."
Even so, critics were very much divided on the all-star genre mashup (also written by Jarmusch), which currently holds a technically rotten 53% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Universal/Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets 2, now in its second weekend, chewed on $23 million for the second spot. That's more than a 50% drop in sales from last weekend, when it was the top-selling movie with $47.11 million. Another $8.5 million came from overseas, inflating the film's global tally to $154.6 million.
Directed by Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val, the animated comedy sequel features top-quality voice talent from Patton Oswalt, Tiffany Haddish, Harrison Ford, Jenny Slate, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, and more.
The third box-office spot goes to Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin with an extra $17 million, bringing its domestic haul to $264 million. Compared to the company's other reimaginings, it has outpaced 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians, Cinderella, Maleficent, Dumbo, Oz the Great and Powerful, Pete's Dragon, and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Will Smith, Aladdin (directed by Guy Ritchie) still has $100 million (give or take) left to go if it is to top Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland ($334 million) and Jon Favreau's Jungle Book ($364 million) at the North American box office. Once that happens, the picture will be second only to Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast ($504 million).
Overseas, the live-action adventure in the city of Agrabah netted an additional $47.5 million for an international treasure trove of $724 million, $460 million of which comes from foreign ticket sales.
Now playing in its sophomore weekend, Simon Kinberg's Dark Phoenix fell 73% domestically with a meager $9 million. The latest live-action X-Men film bombed hard at the North American box office last weekend with $33 million. It did slightly better in foreign markets with $107 million. At the current time, Dark Phoenix's domestic total sits just under $52 million. Internationally, that number was bumped up to $204 million thanks to $24 million from 44 foreign markets.
Kinberg took the blame for the movie's failure on Friday, saying:
"It clearly is a movie that didn't connect with audiences that didn't see it, it didn't connect enough with audiences that did see it. So that's on me ... I loved making the movie, and I loved the people I made the movie with."
Elsewhere, Warner Bros. and Legendary's Detective Pikachu achieved the title of "very best" (as the theme song goes) by becoming the highest-grossing video game adaptation in history.
Another major offering from the two studios, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is still struggling to turn a profit with just $14.1 million during its third weekend in theaters. So far, the big-budget monster mash from director Michael Dougherty (Krampus) has stomped on $339.5 million worldwide.